The Dead of Winter

by Kieran Healy on December 21, 2003

I got an email this morning with some photos of the crowd waiting for the Winter solstice sunrise at Newgrange. I think Newgrange is one of the wonders of the world, so here’s a post of mine about it from this time last year.

[click to continue…]


by Chris Bertram on December 21, 2003

Remembering the Eisenhower parody below had me leafing through the “Macdonald anthology”: and looking at some of my other favourites (and then googling to see if they are on the web anywhere) Pride of place goes to Paul Jennings’s “Report on Resistentialism”: which begins thus:

bq. It is the peculiar genius of the French to express their philosophical thought in aphorisms, sayings hard and tight as diamonds, each one the crystal centre of a whole constellation of ideas. Thus, the entire scheme of seventeenth century intellectual rationalism may be said to branch out from that single, pregnant saying of Descartes, ‘Cogito ergo sum’ – ‘I think, therefore I am.’ Resistentialism, the philosophy which has swept present-day France, runs true to this aphoristic form. Go into any of the little cafés or horlogeries on Paris’s Left Bank (make sure the Seine is flowing away from you, otherwise you’ll be on the Right Bank, where no one is ever seen) and sooner or later you will hear someone say, ‘Les choses sont contre nous.’ ‘Things are against us.’ This is the nearest English translation I can find for the basic concept of Resistentialism, the grim but enthralling philosophy now identified with bespectacled, betrousered, two-eyed Pierre-Marie Ventre.

Read the whole thing.


by Chris Bertram on December 21, 2003

I have a guilty secret: I’m a PowerPoint user. Why do I use PowerPoint? Because it is an easy way to get text and graphics up on a screen to illustrate a lecture. I’m sure there are other and better ways of doing this, but don’t know what they are. I’ve been feeling bad about this since reading some of “Edward Tufte”: ‘s anti-PP writings, and my guilt and shame are compounded after reading “John Naughton’s attack on PP in todays’ Observer”:,6903,1110963,00.html . Sample quote:

bq. As an addiction of the white-collar classes, PowerPoint ranks second only in perniciousness to cocaine.

(Actually I have sometimes wondered whether my lectures would be improved by prior self-medication — a stiff drink perhaps — but have never run the experiment.)

Naughton links to Peter Norvig’s rendering of the “Gettysburg address in PowerPoint”: — funny and effective.

Incidentally, this reminds me of Oliver Jensen’s “The Gettysburg Address in Eisenhowese” from Dwight Macdonald’s “Parodies: An Anthology from Chaucer to Beerbohm–And After”: which begins thus:

bq. I haven’t checked these figures, but 87 years ago, I think it was, a number of individuals organized a governmental set-up here in this country, I believe it covered certain Eastern areas, with this idea they were following up based on a sort of national independence arrangement and the program that every individual is just as good as every other individual. Well, now, of course, we are dealing with this big difference of opinion, civil disturbance you might say, although I don’t like to appear to take sides or name any individuals….